Volume 17, No. 3 (March 2022)
In obedience to Jesus’ command (Luke 22:19), His church has always made the ritual remembrance of His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross a central part of gathered worship. In fact, in most traditions the Lord’s Supper was celebrated weekly for the first 1500 years of the church. Some groups continue this practice, though many groups now opt for a monthly observance, while others do it quarterly or even less often. In the absence of specific biblical instruction as to frequency, there is freedom in this respect.
The Lord’s Supper is a powerful showing forth of the life and death, the resurrection and ascension of Christ. . . The Bible calls us to take and eat and drink as well as to hear.
We do not come before God in the Eucharist on the ground of what we have done. . . . We come with nothing in our hands but the bread and wine, to feed upon Christ’s Body and Blood and find shelter in His sacrifice and oblation on our behalf. . . . We do not have to keep looking over our shoulders to see whether our response is good enough. The very fact that in our response we are called to rely entirely upon the steadfast and incorruptible response of Christ made on our behalf frees us from the anxieties begotten of ulterior motivation and evokes genuine freedom and joy in our responding to God.
An understanding of the biblical nuance of “remembrance” (Greek anamnesis) is key to our understanding of the Lord’s Supper. James Torrance explains this concept well:
The word anamnesis . . . is of rich liturgical significance in the Bible. It does not mean simply an act of recollection of some remote date of bygone history, as every schoolboy remembers 1066 A.D. Rather it means remembering in such a way that we see our participation in the past event and see our destiny and future as bound up with it. So when Jews remember the passover and the exodus from Egypt, they do not think of it simply as an irretrievable date from over 3000 years ago. Rather they remember it in such a way that they confess “We are the people whom God brought out of the land of Egypt for we were Pharaoh’s bondmen.” “We are the people with whom God made His covenant, saying ‘I will be your God and you shall be my people.’”
In cultic remembrance. . .the past is rendered present; there is a re-present-ation of the past so that it lives again in the present time. This, for lack of a better word, we may call a presentifying of the past. . . . So at the Last Supper, we do not merely remember the Passion of our Lord as an isolated date from 1900 years ago. Rather we remember it in such a way that we know that we are the people for whom our Saviour died and rose again. We are what we are today by the grace of God because of what God did for us then.
PERSPECTIVES ON THE LORD’S SUPPER
Gordon T. Smith, in an insightful little book entitled A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, unpacks seven perspectives gleaned from the major New Testament passages dealing with the Supper—seven angles from which to observe and understand the practice. Each perspective and passage he summarizes with a single key word that is the focus of the passage:
- REMEMBRANCE: The Lord’s Supper as a Memorial (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)
- COMMUNION: The Lord’s Supper as Fellowship with Christ and with One Another (1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-34)
- FORGIVENESS: The Lord’s Supper as a Table of Mercy (Matthew 26:26-28)
- COVENANT: The Lord’s Supper as a Renewal of Baptismal Vows (Mark 14:22-25)
- NOURISHMENT: The Lord’s Supper as Bread from Heaven (John 6:35-58)
- ANTICIPATION: The Lord’s Supper as a Declaration of Hope (Luke 22:14-27)
- EUCHARIST: The Lord’s Supper as a Joyous Thanksgiving Celebration (Acts 2:46-47; also Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17,19; 1 Corinthians 11:24)
 In fact, Darrell Johnson has pointed out that “eat and drink are the only verbs of worship explicitly commanded by Jesus.” (back cover endorsement of Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church)
 Most evangelicals recognize this as one of two “ordinances” (along with baptism), as ritual observances ordained by Christ himself as signs and symbols of divine grace effected by God internally in the life of the believer. Other Christian groups add to these two more rituals, and identify them as “sacraments” (i.e., acts that in themselves impart divine grace (for the instance, the Catholic and Orthodox traditions).
 White, “Making Our Worship More Biblical,” Perkins Journal 34 (Fall 1980):38-40.
 Thomas F. Torrance, “The Word of God and the Response of Man” in God and Rationality, 158-61.
 James B. Torrance, “The Place of Jesus Christ in Worship,” in Theological Foundations for Ministry, ed. Ray S. Anderson, 10,355-56.